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The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death #2)

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,619 Ratings  ·  954 Reviews
Ariana Franklin combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the drama of historical fiction in the enthralling second novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, featuring medieval heroine Adelia Aguilar.

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison—and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published January 31st 2008 by Putnam Adult (first published 2008)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
31st out of 1,305 books — 3,310 voters
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth PetersThe Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. KingThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan BradleyMaisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Favorite Historical Mystery Series
22nd out of 779 books — 878 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 28, 2008 Donald rated it it was ok
This is an okay historial murder-myster-whodunit. The main problem is with the main character; I never liked her. She also has problems with what she believes; in one instant, she's giving a poor girl a cross necklace and in the other, she's saying things like she doesn't want anything to do with a God who allows [insert whatever it is she's railing against at the moment], but then later prays for God's protection. Confusing. The author also repeats herself ad nauseum. Yes, we know what the main ...more
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 Richard Derus rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

This mystery novel is the second outing for Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, in (reluctant) service to His Majesty Henry II Plantagenet, and based in and around Oxford.

It's a fun book to read, and Adelia is fun to spend time with. She's a character with a complete lack of history, as she's a foundling, and she's invented herself as a fish out of water as a result. She's simply not anyone's but her own, unlike most people.

Her new baby daughte
Mar 06, 2009 Linda rated it liked it
Who knew one could find murder mysteries placed in twelfth century England? A very palatable way to learn history.
Jun 24, 2009 Meredith rated it it was ok
I was, by the barest whisper, sufficiently curious about the heroine from "Mistress of the Art of Death" to get a copy of this from the local library. It's a fast read - I churned through it in about a day - but man. I was disappointed by its predecessor, and this one's not all that great either. Franklin's writing is more than a little ham-fisted at times, and it gets repetitive. Again, I wasn't too surprised when the big reveal came along at the end.

Also, I'm coincidentally in the middle of Al
THE DEATH MAZE (aka The Serpent’s Tale) (Hist. Mys-Adelia Aguilar-England-1172) – VG+
Franklin, Ariana – 2nd in series
Bantam Press, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9780593056509

First Sentence: The two men’s voices carried down the tunnels with a reverberation that made them indistinguishable but, even so, gave the impression of a business meeting.

King Henry II refused to let Adelia Aguilar return to her home at the School of Medicine in Sicily so she is living in the fens with her baby daughter Allie,
Feb 28, 2013 Wench rated it did not like it
Put Temperance Brennan from "Bones" in the Plantagenet era, make her a less sympathetic and more inconsistent character, and add a heaping helping of heavy-handed WOMEN HAD IT TERRIBLY BAD BACK THEN AND THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES, AND IF I (THE AUTHOR IN THE GUISE OF THE MAIN CHARACTER) WERE IN CHARGE THINGS WOULD BE BETTER, and you have this book. I wanted to find out whodunit, then I did. The last 40 pages then became unnecessary. I'm glad I picked this up for only ...more
Jan 06, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
The Serpent’s Tale by Arianna Franklin is the second book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series set in Medieval England during the reign of King Henry I (Plantagenet). I am not providing details of the first book, Mistress of the Art of Death, or a summary of The Serpent’s Tale.

In The Serpent’s Tale the author conveys more a sense of delight in telling a tale of murder than in Mistress of the Art of Death, which I felt more a sense of dread and doom throughout, plus the child murders being
Lauren Fidler
two things happened in this installment that made me incredibly happy:
1. ariana franklin only felt compelled to mention once or twice the unhappy tragedy of thomas becket and henry's "side comment" to his knights about getting rid of the bugger.
2. adelia's full name only gets mentioned twice

two of my biggest gripes about the first book in the series were the previously mentioned items that franklin threw in the reader's face any time there was a chance to do so. here, she seems to have learned
This is the second in Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of Death series, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first in the series. I’m not exactly sure what was missing from this one, although it felt as though Adelia, the forerunner to today’s forensic pathologists, did less of the examination of bodies in this than in the first and there was more traipsing back and forth being made to follow this person and that. It was still a good read, that had me turning the pages to fin ...more
This series is working its way to becoming one of my favourites. In this one, Adelia is required to help determine the death and killer of King Henry II's fair Rosamund. I hesitate to call this historical fiction because it takes great liberties with the history. Shall we call it "loosely historical"? The author does take time to point out where she strays from what is known of the period. But the value in this book is the craftsmanship of storytelling that Ariana Franklin possessed.
Patricia Bracewell
Dec 08, 2015 Patricia Bracewell rated it really liked it
Although 8 years have passed since I read the first book in this series (Mistress of the Art of Death) Franklin nudged my memory of characters and events just enough to allow a smooth re-entry into Adelia's 12th century world. And I very much enjoy the world that Franklin creates. Her heroine Adelia is smart, capable, well-trained but not - refreshingly - some statuesque, untouchable beauty. Franklin reserves that description for Queen Eleanor although, as Adelia observes, even Eleanor is someth ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 12, 2014 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Mysteries
I dithered about the rating of this one. In some ways I did enjoy this even more than the first book in the series, Mistress of the Art of Death. I loved the portraits of Henry II of England, his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and his mistress the "Fair" Rosamund. In all those cases they are takes unlike what I'd read of them and made me want to read more about the real history--and I even poked around a little online. That's what good historical fiction does--not only draw you into another world, b ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Alondra rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
4 Stars

I am loving this series. Here we have Adelia on the case again at Henry's 'request'; to investigate the poisoning of one of his mistresses.

Adelia does what she does best; questions, investigates and theorizes. However, when Allies life is threatened, Adelia almost abandons the investigation altogether..... But, she just won't let it rest, and she knows Henry's demands will be enforced, one way or another. So, with bodies piling up and the possibility of not one but two crimes to solve, A
May 18, 2011 Marleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love everything Ariana Franklin / Diana Norman writes. Everything. She’s so talented and has a knack for bringing riveting historical fiction come alive.
Simply put, Franklin’s books are for me the definition of a captivating read. I’m especially very fond of the characters I meet on the page; they are colorful, quirky, well-fleshed and very human.
The Middle-ages are such a dark time, no doubt about it. Here, notwithstanding that the author gives us glimpses of historical reality and we get a
Mz. H
Jun 19, 2011 Mz. H rated it really liked it
I believe that I enjoyed this book more than the last, perhaps because the characters were already established and so there was less background and more action. Even when they were locked away and snowed in at the abbey, it continued to be entertaining. While these books certainly would not qualify and high literature, they are fun examinations of history and they are, most definitely, historical fiction, which the author readily admits too.

I know some other reviewers of the book scoff at the ap
This was murder mystery (plural) meets historical fiction. So I should have liked it because I love both of those genres, but I didn't care for this one.

Everyone seemed angry all the time and they weren't very like-able. They were constantly criticizing, scoffing, self-righteous, etc. They all seemed like the same person. Also, the women were described as nuns or whores. It was always either/or. I wish this had a little more dimension to it. I really wanted to be pulled in, but the more I got t
Oct 03, 2013 Jennie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To sum up: Adelia is fiercely independent. Some people die in the book and Adelia probably feels guilty. And she keeps getting called a "doctor" even though they didn't use that term for physicians back in the day (I don't care if Franklin did include a note excusing her use of the term; it's still annoying). I don't know...some other stuff happened, I'm sure, but I didn't notice.

I slogged through the first 50 pages, then skipped to the last 50 to see if it got any better. It didn't. Enough alre
Jul 05, 2012 Kellyann rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I was assured there was no animal cruelty in this book. But a cat was boiled alive on page 10. I don't usually rate vindictively, but I'm going to in this case, 'cause I'm just too pissed off. This crap is unnecessary; in both books, the plot and characterization could easily have done without these descriptions of the torture of live animals.
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
Adelia, Mansuer, Gylthia - I enjoyed reading about them again! I am happy I read another book in this series. Normally I am on Eleanor of Aquitaine's side, but I have to admit Henry II has his good side also. The writing is well done, the characters keep in their century, and I am looking forward to reading the next book!
Tamora Pierce
Feb 29, 2012 Tamora Pierce rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, adult, mystery
Oops! I put the review for MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH here. Now I'll have to go and re-read THE SERPENT'S TALE to review it correctly--what a chore! ;-)
May 17, 2009 Kara rated it really liked it
Adelia picks up a nemesis in Book 2 that will, I suspect, come back later in the series. She also develops a somewhat better working relationship with Henry II by the end of the book. Henry continues to shine - I liked the hypotheses that the fallout from Becket's murder taught him patience - a cruel patience, but still, patience.

Eleanor... she doesn't thunder off the page the way she should. Eleanor comes off as rather spoiled and self involved. Plenty of time is spent discussing the "Amazon" s
Surprisingly, this book is slightly better than its predecessor, Mistress of the Art of Death . Since the first introduction with the unconventional character of Adelia was done in the first book, in this sequel there are also less scenes in which she shows her disregard for status distinctions and traditional gender roles. However, her resentment towards men and their oppression of women is still alive and well, at least in her private reflections, and although it still influences her actions ...more
Robert J.
May 05, 2013 Robert J. rated it it was amazing
I found myself unable to put this book down about half way through, finished it in one sitting. This is a much better book than the first book in the series, though you need to read that one to get the most out of this one, as there are many backward references and character developments. First, let's do away with the negatives: this is not history, most of the events are made up, as are almost all of the main characters. I seriously doubt Henry II would have (*very vague spoiler*) outstripped h ...more
Sep 19, 2009 Spuddie rated it really liked it
#2 Adelia Aguilar "Mistress of the Art of Death" historical mystery. The Bishop (Adelia's former lover Rowley, who is also the father of her child Allie) summons Adelia to investigate the death of one of King Henry's mistresses, Rosamond. It's being made to appear that Queen Eleanor (recently escaped from her imprisonment) has done the deed, and Rowley is anxious to get to Rosamond's manor before the king so he can hopefully divert an all-out war, which is sure to ensue if Henry believes Eleanor ...more
Jamie Collins
I enjoyed much of this book. The writing is quite good, particularly the dialogue. As with the first book, the author does a great job with the historical setting, depicting life during a harsh medieval English winter. I continue to enjoy the main characters. (The recap of the first book seemed unnecessarily detailed, but perhaps that's just because I read it not long ago.)

Unfortunately, the mystery centers around the legend that Eleanor of Aquitaine poisoned her husband's famous mistress, Rosam
Nov 20, 2009 Nancy rated it it was ok
This was a rather crowded book. A lot of characters, some of whom did not seem to add to the story but did add to the volume. To be honest, I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first, maybe a little paring down with more focus on the interesting characters (including Gyltha and Mansur) and the relationship between Rowley and Adelia (which could do with some actual relating) would have appealed more to me as I got a little fed up with Adelia (she is somewhat unrelenting and dreary at times)and ...more
Sep 25, 2010 Jillian rated it really liked it
This was definitely a satisfying sequel to Mistress of the Art of Death . Adelia remains her spunky self, and somehow she manages to keep her wits about her in some really grotesque and trying moments. She is smart and perceptive and just so...uniquely herself. I'd love to put her in a room with a couple of other main characters (and authors too for that matter) so she could teach them how to be THEMSELVES and be CONSISTENT (ummm...Jessica Darling? You're first on my list.)

In addition to loving
Jun 06, 2011 Danielle rated it really liked it
Not sure how much time I'll have to read over the holiday weekend, but since this book is available at the library, I want to be ready!


I enjoyed this book very much. The measure of a good read for me is whether I look forward to getting in bed and reading at the end of the day, and this qualifies. It felt a bit more disjointed than the first book - bouncing from one thing to another. And I must admit that I have little interest in the court intrigue and all the loyalites and machin
Nachdem ich den ersten Fall der Totenleserin regelrecht verschlungen habe, war ich sehr gespannt, ob die Fortsetzung das Spannungsniveau halten kann. Und obwohl ich auch diesmal wieder auf jeder Seite mitgeraetselt und mitgefiebert habe, konnte mich die Geschichte nicht auf die gleiche Weise in ihren Bann ziehen.

Die Geschichte spielt im tiefsten Winter und Adelia sitzt mit ihren Leuten in einem eingeschneiten Kloster fest. Diese Siutation schafft eine aeusserst unterkuehlte und laehmende Atmosph
Apr 11, 2011 Karyl rated it it was amazing
I think I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series involving Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Dead. This time, Adelia is drawn into the midst of a rebellion against Henry II and must solve the mystery of who has murdered several people, foremost of whom is the king's own mistress.

If I could write like any author, I would want to write like Franklin. I really enjoy her light, dry quips, which keep the mood light enough so as not to bog the reader in the horror of what's going on in
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Madison Mega-Mara...: The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin 1 2 Sep 14, 2013 02:39AM  
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Ariana Franklin was the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman had written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lived in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

The Death Maze (UK) is published as The Serpent's Tale in the US.
Relics of the Dead (UK) is published as Grave Goods in the US.
The Assassin'
More about Ariana Franklin...

Other Books in the Series

Mistress of the Art of Death (4 books)
  • Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, #1)
  • Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death, #3)
  • A Murderous Procession (Mistress of the Art of Death, #4)

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“A daughter,' Rowley scooped up the child and held her high. The baby blinked from sleep and crowed with him. 'Any fool can have a son,' he said. 'It takes a man to conceive a daughter.” 43 likes
“I yield to nobody in my admiration for God, but he's no good in bed.” 23 likes
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